Christians and Money Series- Natural Applications 1 (Economics): Part 7

Introduction

This post 7 of the Christians and Money Series aims to explore economic aspects of natural applications to deal with wealth in-light of the realizations that have emerged over the last 6 posts. The flow of this post will be as follows

  1. The basic assumption section lays the foundation that underpins natural applications. These assumptions draw from the previous posts.
  1. The reality check section attempts to define the shared economic baseline from which self-examination can take place. This self-examination provides clarity regarding one’s financial reality and aspirations. (Item 1 and 2 in Post 7)
  1. The Minas’s parable (mentioned in post 6) reveals wealth stewardship and the shortcomings between social giving and active faith
  1. This section sacrifices the sacred cow of “Inheritance” by comparing it to RELATIONSHIPS’ focus and value. (Item 3 and 4 in Post 8)
  1. This section discusses the practical Issues of wealth stewardship and adopting the blend of the Wayside Ministry. (Item 5 in Post 9)
Economics of Wealth Stewardship Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

As this post focuses on natural applications, the following sections would appear to offer financial advice, property purchase advice, and wealth management advice. This appearance is unfortunate and difficult to avoid. The natural application draws approaches from the secular domain to identify the metrics to quantify personal wealth situation and economic pursuits relative to the median baseline.

This post 7 is NOT offering any expert advice. Post 7 natural applications are similar to the post 6 goals, creating awareness and supporting new valued-perspectives while laying to rest old ones.

Natural Applications will be divided into 3 parts to promote readability by limiting the post word limit to around 2500 words or less. Post 7, Natural Application 1 will narrate items 1 and 2. Items 3 and 4 will be in post 8, Natural Application 2, while item 5 will be in post 9, Natural Application 3.

Basic Assumption

The natural applications of money could appear naïve to the casual reader. Therefore it is necessary to clarify the underlying assumption with the hope the reader can share this assumption.

Is Christian LOVE Laughable and Naïve? (Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash)

The assumption is to focus on and value God’s 7 appeals in post 4, summarized in one word, RELATIONSHIPS. Posts 5 and 6 expanded the meaning and significance of these RELATIONSHIPS. If the casual reader cannot assimilate these appeals, meaning, and importance as values, the reader will find the ideas floated in this post 7 as laughable and naïve.

The reason being is that these ideas make one vulnerable to be taken advantage of. This truth and fact are unavoidable. Jesus’ allowed Himself to be taken advantage of by humanity when He submitted to His Father’s will to die at the cross. Moreover, God the Father’s offer of Jesus has been rejected and scorned by many.

The world ridicules such naivety, which contradicts Peter in 1Pet2:19-23, who said suffering wrongfully while doing good is commendable before God because God the Father and Jesus have set Themselves an example for the believer to emulate. Notwithstanding this, God realizes the associated risks. There are two safeguards against these risks.

  1. Internally, believers need to entrust themselves to the hands of the faithful Creator, Father God, (1Pet4:19), the Shepherd (The Lord Jesus), and overseer of the soul, the Holy Spirit (1Pet2:25). This entrusting involves the triune God, shows the severity of the matter.

Entrusting requires the believers to be clear and convicted (Faith) of the hope of heaven as a goal-purpose (1Pet1:3, 1Co15) while pursuing a meaningful and significant relationship with God and Man as Family while on earth.

In such matters, God is the believer’s vengeance seeker (Rom12:19), defender and strength (Psa28:7), and source of honor (Rom10:11).

The Duality of Christian Conduct
  1. Externally, Jesus urged believers to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Mat10:16). Rom16:19 offers Paul’s interpretation, “to be wise in what is good and simple concerning evil.” The Wayside Ministry section of Boundary Concerns will explore the understanding and clarity of what constitutes good to mediate the harm of being taken advantage of.

In summary, believers need to be ready to be taken advantage of and suffer wrongfully. Therefore, It requires one to trust God where faith, hope, and love are operating. Knowing about this “good” that one is doing is wisdom to navigate the treacherous terrain of the 2nd Commandment of loving one’s neighbor as yourself.

Reality Check

This section is somewhat technical. I encourage you to go thru this exercise as an attempt at honest self-examination. This exercise is more rigorous than the reality check of post 1.

SHARED ECONOMIC REALITY Photo by MAX LIBERTINE on Unsplash

This section clarifies the economic reality to create a shared economic baseline for the reader. Man’s economic reality is a by-product of man’s will (choice) and their environment (life circumstances of time and chance). The assumptions of the previous section anchor the reader as they progress along with this post. The following economic realities form the basis to develop the shared economic baseline.

  1. The median take-home income.
  2. The median cost of living.
  3. The poverty threshold to qualify for social aid.
  4. Affordable housing to accommodate a 4-6 person family size.

I am taking Singapore (location specific), where I reside, as an example to determine the 4 economic realities.

Four Measures of Economic Realities

The median take-home income

The individual median take-home income (2019) is $4,000.00. See link for data source- https://stats.mom.gov.sg/Pages/Singapore-Yearbook-Of-Manpower-Statistics-2020-Income-Earnings-and-Wages.aspx.

The median cost of living

Cost of Living Figures (2018)

The individual median cost of living, excluding rental and housing loans, is $1,200.00. The 4th quintile number is adopted to represent the average cost better. Notably, the 20th quintile is $50 less than the value of $650.00, below which one can qualify for social aid.

The cost of living was computed from the following link. https://www.moneyowl.com.sg/articles/how-much-do-i-need-to-retire-in-singapore-and-how-do-i-build-my-retirement-income-stream/.

The Poverty Threshold to Qualify for Social Aid

Social Aid

Singapore’s Ministry of Social and Family Development means-testing to qualify for social aid is not more than $650.00 per person and below $1,900.00 per household. See link- https://www.msf.gov.sg/Comcare/Pages/Public-Assistance.aspx

Affordable housing to accommodate a 4-6 person family size

Wiki developed the above data. See link –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median_multiple. It shows how to gauge whether housing cost is affordable or not.

HDB Flat Type and Average Price

About 80% of Singaporeans live in government-built flats call HDB flats. Private properties cost more than 5 times on a per square feet basis than HDB flats. See the link for the 80% statistics (https://data.gov.sg/dataset/estimated-resident-population-living-in-hdb-flats?resource_id=a7d9516f-b193-4f9b-8bbf-9c85a4c9b61b). The above data shows HDB flats cost is as per the link – https://blog.seedly.sg/what-type-of-hdb-flat-can-i-afford/

Four Economic Metrics to Form the Economic Baseline

Shared Economic Metrics

Based on the above data, one can develop the following 4 metrics to frame the property aspirations, wealth stage, and standard of living against the median baselines
Determine your living expenses multiplier per persona as a multiple of the median $1200.00 a month per person (average retiree living standard).

Note the $1,200 denominator excludes rental, mortgage, insurance, car loan/maintenance, and education. This value is for the retirement stage of life.

My multiplier W= 1.3 as it includes insurance. This measure quantifies how much beyond or below is one’s living standard relative to the median living standard of a retiree in Singapore. This value of 1.3 means I am living by 30% above the median living standard.

Determine your minimum living expenses multiplier per persona as a multiple of the minimum $650.00 a month per person (below which qualifies for social aid)

Note the $650 denominator excludes rental, mortgage, insurance, car loan/maintenance, and education. This number is the amount below which one qualifies for social aid.

My multiplier X= 2.4 as it includes insurance. This measure quantifies how much beyond or below is one’s living standard relative t the median living standard of a retiree in Singapore. This value of 2.4 means I am living by 140% above the minimum living standard.

Determine your selected house cost as a multiplier of the cheaper housing cost that can accommodate the same number of residents

The median household income of 2 persons, which gives a value of $8,000.00, is the denominator. Therefore, my Z=2.92. This Z value placed the property purchase within the affordable range of 3.0 and under.

Determine the Wealth Stage

Moats Approach

Wealth Stage, Z1 comprises of two values

  1. The 1st value, Z1-1, is the stage of wealth that ranges from 1 to 10.
  2. The 2nd value is the multiplier of, Z1-2

Determine your stage of wealth using the metric suggested by Investment Moats, reproduced above. See web-link. (https://investmentmoats.com/financial-independence/level-of-wealth-financial-freedom/)

Notes to the Table Above

  1. The 1st column from the left of the table above reveals the wealth stage.
  2. This post created the other 2 columns by applying the median standard of living baseline of between $1,200.00 to $1,500.00 per person per month. This table adopted a higher baseline for retirees due to higher health care costs.
  3. The computation of the wealth assets and cashflow is conservative as it does not account for income from government and insurance annuities.


Balanced Wealth Stage Approach

The balanced approach below adopts a total drawdown to exhaust the accumulated wealth within 30 years to contrast this relentless pursuit of wealth accumulation. To determine this drawdown rate, use the calculator from this link – https://www.noelwhittaker.com.au/resources/calculators/retirement-drawdown-calculator/.

Notes on Table:

  1. $550,000.00 as the retirement kitty is a very achievable target if employment income occurs at a median of $4,000.00 a month and both couples work till age 55-60 even after factoring education needs for the children assuming local university education.
  2. The median cost of living (3rd column) is used to derive the wealth stage median value (2nd column).

Z2 comprises of two values

  1. The 1st value, Z2-1, is the stage of wealth that ranges from 1 to 7.
  2. The 2nd value is the multiplier of Z2, Balanced Wealth Stage Multiplier, Z2-2

Z2-2 gives the excess or deficit of one’s Wealth Status baselined against the Balanced Wealth Approach as the median.

For example, if the net worth is $1,000,000.00 in investable wealth occurring at the stage of wealth, Z2-1=7, the multiplier, Z2-2= 1.8 times the 7th stage median value.

These numbers relate to individuals with the median or above earning capacity. The Wayside Ministry section will address this reality in-context of money stewardship for individuals with earning capabilities less than these numbers.

It is also timely to recall that previous posts established wealth addiction afflicts both the wealthy and the poor alike. It is not the amount of wealth or poverty, but at the heart of this addiction is the unresolved RELATIONSHIPS issues. It is Man’s heart condition.

Conclusion

Rich and Poor Shared Economic Realities and Economic Baselines

Economic realities are environmental forces that confront both the rich and the poor. However, personal decisions determine each person’s economic baselines. The picture above used anchors to represent economic baselines, and the boat represents each person’s life. These anchors offer stability, but it also prevents a person from moving on. These anchors can also weigh down the boat and contribute to the boat sinking in the most extreme circumstances of oversized anchor weight. The anchors are necessary, but Man needs the wisdom to determine the suitable anchor weight and number of anchors

Post 9 will offer perspectives to consider suitable anchor sizes and the number of anchors used in different life circumstances to illustrate natural application in action.

Christians and Money Series- Spiritual Application: Part 6

Introduction

Post 5 of the Christians and Money Series concluded RELATIONSHIPS issues are at the heart of Man’s helplessness to serve two Masters, God and Mammon.

This Post 6 frames the spiritual application of the Christians and Money Series. Due to each post’s word limit, there will be a Post 7 to articulate the natural application to support Man’s goal to serve God and not Mammon.

Post 6 is content-heavy. Further aggravating readability, the subject matter is complicated and abstract, which challenges clarity to see how the parts are gathering together as a whole. It is challenging to feel comfortable in a big forest with diverse flora and fauna.

 

The first section, Awareness and Creation out of Destruction, clarifies that the goals set out in Post 1 were met by seeding awareness to create the required focus and shift in values to support God’s Alternative that restores the RELATIONSHIPS. See Post 3 and 4 for details of these RELATIONSHIPS.

The second section, Individual Hope vs. Collective Hope, reveals money’s spiritual application, which is the individual’s goal of soul salvation. God uses money and RELATIONSHIPS as the context to test Man’s soul to save the soul. This section explains the nature of spirit, soul, and body salvation to avoid confusion among them. This section also describes how the new covenant’s soul salvation is different and more valuable than the old covenant in-terms of approach and outcomes.

The third section, Soul Salvation and Money, offers why soul salvation is essential to fulfilling God’s and Man’s core interest.

I found Post 6 very challenging to narrate compared to the other posts. It is foreseeable that Post 6 will evolve as a live document to reflect these challenges.

 

Awareness and Creation out of Destruction

Post 1 mentioned that this series has 2 goals. It will be helpful to see how the previous 5 posts have supported these 2 goals.

Awareness is the Seed of Realization and Intention
  1. The 1st goal mentioned in Post 1; These series create awareness of the deceptive relationship with money. Man can avoid the eternal consequences that the current norms bring.

In-summary Posts 1 to 5 have shown that, instead of focusing on the RELATIONSHIPS, Man has created surrogates, such as money, to substitute the RELATIONSHIPS God offered. Men find comfort through these surrogates to free themselves from the worry of the future and provide a sense of purpose and meaning on earth, albeit temporal, hedonic, and suffer marginal utility. Man’s choices carry the weight of eternal consequences.

Realizations Sift the Chaff of Man’s Realities from God’s Realities (Photo by TUAN ANH TRAN on Unsplash)

This new awareness seeds new realizations. This seeding is possible because awareness sifts the chaff of Man’s realities from God’s. For the chaff has deceived Man’s senses with an apparent value that’s temporal and pleasure-seeking, diminishing the eternal value of RELATIONSHIPS.

The clarity of this awareness helps Man to look away from future worries and focus on God’s promise to provide for their future needs.

This approach draws from the same truth of the parable of the sower in Mat13. These series are sowing seeds in the heart of readers.

Breaking to Create
  1. The 2nd goal mentioned in Post 1; This series supports the Christians’ walk to break out from the world economic system’s mold. It is making stronger connections between scripture, societal stance, and personal practical application.

In-summary Posts 1 to 5 have shown that surrogates dominate Man’s relationships through institutionalization, affecting the secular, religious, and personal domains. These institutionalized relationships being bureaucratic and social, are transactional and profit-seeking.

Breaking the existing mold supports the shift from what the heart used to value, which is the temporal pleasures of this world, but instead to appreciate the eternal rewards and divine glory. Often money is the means to attain these temporal values. Likewise, God uses money as the context for achieving His alternative to restore Man’s broken RELATIONSHIPS.

This idea of creation emerging from Destruction is original with God (John12:24).

 

Individual Hope vs. Collective Hope

However, Post 5 ended on a despairing note of the unavoidable Age of acute mortality of Mat24:7 and Luke21:10-11, naturally posing the question – Why may one ask, what is the purpose of this Christian and Money Series since the bitter end appears inevitable?

Individual Hope vs. Collective Hope

Notwithstanding the grim events of Mat24:7, this new focus and shift in values are the foundations to support SOUL salvation, which is the spiritual application of money. It is needful to recognize that soul salvation is an individual experience and not for collective humanity.

Humanity lacks the collective will to change its current trajectory of self-harm and destination of self-destruction. Therefore, humanity foreseeably continues to meander in its self created domain of darkness.

 

Born Again Spirit-Saved Soul-Resurrected Body

 

What is soul salvation? Post 3 briefly introduced the concept of Soul salvation. Firstly, God has offered Man three types of salvation that correspond to Man’s spirit, soul, and body. Collectively, they represent God’s plan for Man to attain divinity.

John3 explains spiritual salvation occurs when the spirit is born again begat by the Holy Spirit (John3:6). Spiritual salvation is a gift of God (Eph2:8-9), obtained by confessing that Jesus is the savior (forgiveness of sins) and believing in His resurrection, according to Rom10:9 and Heb10:12. Spiritual salvation guarantees a place in heaven. See the post “Once Saved Always Saved: Proof” for a deeper understanding of the scriptural basis to substantiate this claim of a heavenly membership guarantee.

Paul introduced salvation of the body in 1Co15. He calls this saved body a spiritual body. This body’s nature is eternal (undying), incorruptible, imbued in power, and glorious. This body is preserved in heaven by the power of God (1Pet1:5).

Peter calls this spiritual body the living hope of believers (1Pet1:3). The spiritual body’s promise is the source of hope for believers on earth, so they do not despair in their earthly suffering. Because God “owes” Man the body, He (God the Father) offered the Holy Spirit to each believer as a promissory note (IOU) (2Co1:22) as an assurance of the promised spiritual body. God gives the spiritual body in the 1st resurrection mentioned in Rev20:5, which marks Jesus’ conquest over death (Rev20:10) on behalf of Man.

In-summary, both spiritual salvation and body salvation are gifts from God. Man’s part is to believe God at His word. However, the matter is very different for soul salvation.

The Complete Salvation of Man- Pathway to Divinity

 

Peter, in 1Pet1:9, describes soul salvation. Soul salvation is highly variable, where each believer has a different degree of soul salvation. Jesus has perfect soul salvation (Heb2:10,5:8-9) among all the sons of God.

Faith is the raw ingredient to support Man’s soul salvation. God the Father, the impartial Judge (1Pet1:17), tests this faith to validate Genuity thru fiery trials of wrongful suffering doing good expressed in sincere brotherly love (2nd Commandment) mentioned in 1Pet1:7, 9 and 22, 1Pet2:19 and 1Pet3:17. Soul salvation is commonly known as the Holy Spirit’s sanctification (1Pet1:2) by faith works cited in James2 to respect Man’s free will by offering Man choices in life.

Confusion, debate, and controversy commonly emerge when one fails or refuses to distinguish between spiritual justification-salvation, a gift of the born again spirit, and soul justification-salvation, which requires Man’s effort as the primary component.

 

Why is human effort key to soul salvation? God values and honors free choice, even above the salvation of Man. The power to wield free will resides in Man’s soul. God the Father presented Jesus the option in the Garden of Gethsamane to die at the cross or abandon ship (Mat26:38-39), and this choice grieved His soul. Jesus’ SOUL was perfected in the weakness of submission when He obeyed His Father’s will to die at the cross (Heb2:10,5:8-9). Man who calls Jesus, Master (John15:20), are not exempted from the soul salvation test of suffering to perfect their soul.

Peter reminded Man of this truth when he presented Jesus as the model example for Man to emulate in this regard (1Pet4:1, 2:21). Because soul salvation requires suffering, Peter in 1Pet4:18 recognized the difficulty of soul salvation by saying, “If the righteous one is sacredly (with difficulty) saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”.

Apart from preserving Man’s free will and perfecting the soul, Soul salvation has the goal to produce eternal glory (2Co4:16-18, 1Pet4:14) and satisfy the charge of the hypocrisy against Man’s professed sincere faith and love for God that was laid by Satan against Job (and Man) in Job1:9-11.

This eternal glory is the final unit of measure of each person’s degree of soul salvation. To support this view, Paul, in 1Co15:41, recognized that glory is unique between individuals. Glory being the unit of measure, stems from the relationship between soul salvation and glory. Soul salvation produces glory, according to 2Co4:16-18. Therefore evidence of the degree of soul salvation can be inferred by the quantity of eternal glory the soul possesses.

 

The correlation of soul salvation and glory holds great significance for Man than this simple correlation. The new covenant soul’s salvation glory is different and more valuable than the glory that Adam and Eve received from God in Eden. Man forfeited their glory (Rom3:23) when Adam and Eve sinned by partaking the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen3). In the New Covenant, God cannot confiscate Man’s glory, like what happened in Eden due to sin. There are two reasons for this.

  1. This glory is different because God does not give this glory as Man’s soul produces it as part of Man’s soul salvation process. Therefore original ownership resides with Man.
  1. In the old testament, the power of sin is the reason for soul death (Eze18:20), and this does not apply in the new testament. This claim is an observation. As for why this is the case, probably, Jesus, God’s only Son as the sin sacrifice (John3:16), and the nature of His death (suffering on the cross willingly) were overpayment for Man’s sins. They over satisfied God’s Justice and justified Him to make this shift in this matter of Man’s soul. This glory of the soul salvation is more valuable than the Edenic glory because it required payment of Jesus’ blood and suffering.

This lengthy introduction is necessary to explain soul salvation as the basis for spiritual application with wealth-money as the context.

 

Soul Salvation and Money

Man’s Heart Follows His Treasure

God recognized the power of treasures to captivate Man’s heart. Mat6:21, Jesus framed this by saying, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be (reside).” God wants Man to realize and value RELATIONSHIPS as true treasures so that Man’s heart chooses to reside in a relationship with God. The 2 commandments of Love (Mat22:36-40) embody God’s Word, All the Law (His purpose), and the Prophets (His will).

RELATIONSHIPS have an actual value similar to money or wealth on earth. The two posts dedicated to exploring this value are as follows.

  1. The Currency of Heaven is Glory- https://sincerelawrence.com/2020/10/31/currency-of-heaven-10min-read/
  2. Wealth Ranking in Heaven- https://sincerelawrence.com/2020/11/04/wealth-ranking-in-heaven-10min-read/

Notwithstanding what these two posts have covered, It is needful to reiterate two aspects to support this post 6’s narrative.

God’s Justice (1st Commandment) and God’s Love (2nd Commandment) Hanging in Perfect Balance

 

  1. The first aspect is about satisfying God’s two most basic needs. The first need is God’s intrinsic nature of love, revealed in 1John4:16. So if God was posed a question and asked, “Who are you?” God will respond; I am love. The 2 Commandments of Love in Mat22:36-40 describes the scope of this love.

 

1st Commandment and 2nd Commandment-

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And He said to him,” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’

“This is the great and foremost Commandment.

“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’

“On these two commandments depend (hang) the whole Law and the Prophets.”

 

God gave these two Commandments to Man, but He has also imposed these same 2 Commandments onto Himself as evidenced in the giving of His Son for Man’s salvation. God’s sense of Justice demands that both Man and God fulfill these two Commandments alike.

The second need of God is to perform His role as the impartial Judge mentioned in 1Pet1:17, which James says is also the only One that can save or destroy in Jam4:12.

With the above understanding, Mat22:36-40 needs rephrasing to account for God imposing these Commandments onto Himself.

 

1st Commandment rephrased, the “I,” “My” and “Myself” is God referring to Himself

– “I SHALL LOVE MYSELF WITH ALL MY HEART, AND WITH ALL MY SOUL, AND WITH ALL MY MIND.’

The 1st Commandment is a demanding love. In the original form, God is demanding Man’s, undivided love. In the rephrased form, God requires that He honors His Self-Love. Thus God as Judge is upholding both the 1st and 2nd Love Commandments’ sanctity.

In the old covenant, God imposed this demanding loving on Man’s soul that carried the death penalty due to sin (Eze18:20). Although the new covenant has absolved Man from eternal death due to sin, God’s Justice to uphold the 1st Commandment demands that Man’s soul does not receive the same “scott free” treatment as the born again spirit or resurrected body. But instead, the soul (including Jesus’ soul) needs to suffer wrongfully (1Pet2:19) and be tested by fiery trials (1Pet1:7). Money and wealth play a central role in providing the context for these wrongful suffering and fiery trials.

 

2nd Commandment rephrased ‘I SHALL LOVE MAN AS MYSELF.’

The 2nd Commandment is a giving, sacrificial love. In its original form, God is demanding Man love his fellow man as himself. In the rephrased form, it is God demanding Himself to love Man as Himself. This sacrificial love was given as a gift with no contribution needed or desired of man (Eph2:8-9). The blood and body of Christ paid for this love gift for God to fulfill His 2nd Commandment towards Man.

God accepted Christ’s blood as the payment for the forgiveness of sins (Eph1:7). The blood also provided the medium similar to the shedding of blood during natural childbirth for the Holy Spirit, like a mother, to give birth to Man’s born again spirit (John3:6). I am aware that this view is unorthodox, but the elements come together naturally validated by childbirth’s natural experience.

God accepted Christ’s earthly body as the medium to construct the resurrected divine body of God (Col2:9). God retained Jesus’ earthly body as a medium for the resurrected body of the risen Jesus still bears the piercing scars (John20:27).

The Saved Spirit-Soul-Body of Man Ruling with Christ
  1. The second aspect is about satisfying Man’s legitimate need to stand out for their uniqueness and showcase aspects valued by their kind (self-worth). The soul has the innate desire to be respected and appreciated. Humanly speaking, this desire to receive social accolades is the reason for social comparison that breeds jealousy and envy. Money is often the means to fulfill these desires. Man’s desire to realize this need is legitimate. The issue lies with the means.

This need for social recognition emerged in the prodigal Son’s parable when the elder vented his frustration over this matter in Luke15:29-30. God, Himself demonstrates this trait. This observation is not surprising, given that God made Man in His image (Gen1:27).

God used human terms to describe His desire to engage with Man relationally. He uses the relational words such as Father (Mat5:45), brother (Mat28:10), bridegroom, a friend (John15:15), and lover to express (the Book of Song of Solomon, Eze16:8) His uniqueness and desire to be valued in those roles. Therefore, for this reason, Man’s desire for uniqueness and worth is legitimate in the eyes of God.

Tragically, instead of receiving reciprocated respect and appreciation, Man spurns and despises God’s sincere, repeated pleas. The Book of Ezekiel Chapter 16 is one comprehensive example of Man’s unsightly response invoking God’s wrath.

 

Through soul salvation, God has created the means for Man to differentiate themselves uniquely from one another in terms that both God and Man values. Notably, the soul salvation that produces heavenly wealth on earth and the eternal rewards of 1Co3 are often earned in-tandem due to the soul salvation experiences.

The eternal glory indicates how much the transformed soul of that individual is similar to Christ, Christ-likeness. Christ is the supreme ruler of the 1000 years earth rule mentioned in Rev20:6. In this verse, believers raised in the 1st resurrection will co-reign with Christ during this period. It is my view that God confers greater authority to those who have significant eternal glory as this glory commensurates with their degree of Christ-likeness.

The parable of the Minas in Luke 19 provides the basis for this claim. This parable is known for describing the 2nd coming of Christ in Rev20. In this parable, God rewards faithfulness in MONEY matters by giving cities to the said person to rule. For the person with higher monetary returns, God will correspondingly give more cities. Post 7 will discuss the natural application drawing from this parable.

The spiritual application shows faithfulness in money produces eternal glory. This glory is rewarded by God with more significant amounts of authority to co-rule with Christ. Therefore God’s plans for Man are practical, for it satisfies Man’s desire for uniqueness and enhancing their worth in the eyes of their kind, and more importantly, with God.

 

Conclusion

Money is the context, the battleground, and the means for God to test Man’s soul for its professed sincere love for Him and others. God has offered Man eternal incentives of eternal glory and rewards to incentivize Man to focus on Him by not worrying about the future and not to succumb to the temporal pleasures of this world.

God has gone thru great trouble with high stakes in-order that both God and Man fulfill and experience the fullness of the balanced RELATIONSHIPS of the 1st and 2nd Commandment.

Post 7 natural application, although more concrete and practical, is similarly content-heavy.

Christians and Money Series- The Alternative: Part 5

Introduction

Visual Recap of Post 1 to Post 4 of the Christian and Wealth Series

This post is Part 5 of the Christians and Money Series. Suppose you have followed from post 1, congratulations on reading about 5500 words. It is a praiseworthy effort worthy of admiration.

The above visual illustrates “Where” and “How” of wealth and coping among Christians and non-Christians presented from post 1 to post 4. To frame the 4 posts into one sentence, Man has a RELATIONSHIP issue with God, within themselves and between men. Money is the battleground, the context where Man wages their wars. This war consumes most of their lifetime and energy with significant and, at times, irreparable collateral damage to the RELATIONSHIPS.

This post 5 examines both non-Christians and Christians’ current direction to address the wealth gap. This direction correlates with the internal and external factors that sustain the growing wealth gap. With this emerging understanding, the post will connect the direction’s shortfalls and these factors to the core issue of RELATIONSHIPS.

Finally, this post will account for the covid-19 pandemic as a relevant event and God’s RELATIONSHIPS models revealed in the new testament.

Mindful of the word limit, the personal applications that address the RELATIONSHIPS issue will be in post 6.

Humanity’s Challenge with Wealth

The Helplessness of Humankind

This post asserts that governments and religious groups’ primary strategies to combat wealth inequality are overwhelmed by the task’s enormity and the strategy’s innate flaws. This observation is not a statement of condemnation but to draw attention to the humanities’ helplessness. The statistics are grim and glaring in contrast. At the poverty end of the spectrum

  1. About 15,000 children (2016 data) below age 5 die daily from malnutrition.
  2. About 800 million hungry, and 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiency.
  3. About 785 million do not have basic clean water, with about 829,000 deaths annually due to health issues arising from this lack of clean water access.

One needs to bear in mind that these grim numbers have already benefited from China’s effort to lift most of her population from poverty. In comparison to the poverty-related data, globally, at the affluent end of the spectrum, about 600 million adults have diabetes. About 1.9 billion adults fall within the category of overweight and obese.

For the above data, see links- https://www.worldhunger.org/world-child-hunger-facts/#:~:text=In%20spite%20of%20the%20importance,%5BWHO%5D%2C%202016) and https://globalnutritionreport.org/reports/2020-global-nutrition-report/inequalities-global-burden-malnutrition/#section-2-2

Three aspects frame the effort by both governments and religious groups to fight poverty. There is the system, the process, and strategy. The system builds on the institutionalization approach. The process is fronted and executed by representatives of the impersonal bureaucratic institution where the decision-makers in these institutions and the aid recipients are strangers. These institutions can be governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, churches, charitable organizations, and the like.

For the sake of efficiency and expediency, broad-brush policies dominate this landscape. They also share the associated coping strategies by kicking the can down the road and avoiding the problem head-on by varying degrees of compromises, denial, and indifference.

This post objective is not to cast a negative light on these institutions’ excellent and necessary work. They remain necessary. However, the statistics are symptomatic of more serious underlying issues than just a failed redistribution of resources from the wealthy to the poor.

This post posits that humanity needs an alternative system, process, and strategy that operates alongside these existing ones.

Internal and External Factor Sustaining this Growing Wealth Gap

The In-adequacy of the Existing System

Before delving into this alternative, it is needful to appreciate the underlying internal and external factors that perpetuate this wealth inequality.

Post 4 revealed this internal factor. This internal factor is the privilege of the wealthy that their wealth status is a sign of divine blessings, while the poor and their poverty status are a sign of divine chastisement-curse. From henceforth, this internal factor is called Bias. This Bias is an intrinsic value adopted by the wealthy and poor to legitimize the coping mechanisms of hypocrisy-condescension of the wealthy and self-victimization of the poor and reconcile their conscience.

Post 4 also mentioned this Bias emerges as a social behavior rather than verbalized. This social behavior creates gates to separate-insulate Man from the ugly and inconvenient realities. The social behavior of cliques and crowds make invisible gates formed along social-economic status lines, often in symphony with racial, cultural, and religious notes. These invisible gates blind the wealthy and poor from seeing beyond their immediate biased realities and the spectacle of their coping mechanisms.

Steinberg (2017) sheds light on cliques and crowds’ nature. Cliques are small groups between 2 to 12 bonded by a common interest, shared activities, and personal relationships. Jesus and His inner circle of the 12 apostles barely qualify as a clique by this definition. Clique dynamics drive the wealthy and poor to intragroup behavior and pull away from one another. It is noteworthy that the inclination to join a clique is more persistent over time than the tendency to join crowds.

Crowds are large groups that comprise groups of cliques that aggregate because of shared identity such as race, religion, culture, and social-economic status. The relationship is impersonal, and the crowd identity bonds people together.

The combined effect of cliques and crowds social behavior perpetuate, promote and sustain the Bias. Thus, the Bias may not be verbalized as often but lived out in the social behavior of clique relationships and crowd identity.

This Bias is a RELATIONSHIP problem with God-Man and Man-Man. There is a misalignment between God and Man. While Man’s conscience is under the spell of a self-inflicted enchantment (see post 4 for the 1st and 2nd Commandment discussion)

The external factor is the diminished human solidarity underpinned by the shared destiny that values interdependency fostering trust, compassion, and empathy. Man’s short life expectancy in the late 30s until the late 1800s sustained this shared sense of mortal destiny and healthy interdependency.

Instead, the current life expectancy of the 70s to 80s in 125 countries out of 185 created the rise of social solidarity underpinned by the individual’s desire for independence that is profit-seeking fostering mistrust and indifference. See link for the research that shows trust between man in decline – https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/ctx.2005.4.1.40

See link for life expectancy by country https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy#:~:text=Worldwide%2C%20the%20average%20life%20expectancy,according%20to%20The%20World%20Factbook

Social solidarity has eclipsed human solidarity, as seen in the following. A simple internet search would reveal these observations to be true.

  1. Deepening and multiplying forms of discrimination,
  2. The incursion of the rights of the few over the majority’s rights,
  3. The observed overall trend of rising divorce rate, rising crime rate, especially in the severe categories, and increasing domestic violence are evidence of the breakdown of human solidarity.
  4. Celebration, and even worship an individual’s obscene wealth.

Social solidarity and social comparison are bedfellows that have created a shift of Man’s wants to become Man’s needs. Recall in post 2; the social comparison is an engine of hedonic adaptation? Man’s needs traditionally are food, water, shelter, and air. However, now Man’s needs include personal liberties, internet connectivity, right to inheritance, and healthcare. Some wants that are morphing into needs may consist of online social approval, getting the latest gadgets, or fashion. These new needs are alien to God’s intention to free Man from the slavery of Mammon. Any goal to weaning Man from these newfound needs is a pipedream.

It is noteworthy that this Christian and Money series was never under the illusion of offering solutions to humanity’s problems. The conclusion section will cover this aspect in more detail.

Social solidarity is a problem between men related to the 2nd Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. It is a form of institutionalization of the human relationship creating a social caste system. It has a relationship, but this relationship is impersonal, indifferent, and profit-seeking.

God’s alternative seeks to address the above factors embedded within the institutionalized relationship system and restore broken relationships.

The recent global event has turned the world upside down or instead locked down the world. The current covid-19 pandemic has attacked the heart of social solidarity. The mantra of social distancing has thrown a wrench into the gear works of the unstoppable social solidarity. No one country could derail globalization at this scale and pace until this virus did the impossible. Border closures and airlines facing their extinction events are daily realities.

Due to the harsh economic fallout, humanity is suffering the double jeopardy of worry about their future and withdrawal symptoms of diminishing social solidarity. The lockdowns have hollowed out the once much desired social comparison experience and cast a giant shadow of mortality over the sparkling lure of wealth. Where are these observations and narrative headed? The conclusion section will elaborate on this.

God’s Alternative Offer

God’s alternative can only attend to the broken state of the 2nd Commandment. The 1st Commandment is more cut and dry. Man has to decide to value what God values or to pursue value framed by worry and lure of wealth. The 4th post listed the 7 appeals of God to Man to value what’s essential from His perspective. Failure to do so brings self-harm and face the risk of eternal consequences of not winning the faceoff against God.

God’s Alternative Blending with Man’s System

God’s alternative offer seeks to reinstate the near-extinct human solidarity. Jesus offers three relationships that restore human solidarity, the Neighbour, Jesus’ Model, an Inn Keeper (Luke10:25-37). God recognizes that Man needs to draw boundaries between themselves to create a functioning society. God Himself defines His roles in both the new and old testament to creating these boundaries Himself. These boundaries give the form that stabilizes the relationships with each other.

Thus God is supplementing the impermeable barrier of social solidarity with a semi-permeable barrier of human solidarity. The use of the metaphor of form and substance is useful to support clarity. The social solidarity barrier is the form component of the relationship. This form provides the structural stability of boundaries. In comparison, human solidarity is the substance component of the relationship. The substance comprises of sincere dealings between parties. A relationship with all form is sterile and profit-seeking. A relationship with all substance is overwhelmed with emotions and starved of reason. Both are required for the relationship to flourish.

The organized institutions can and should continue to operate predominantly form-based while individuals engage primarily substance-based. Notably, whether it is the organized institutions or individuals, the goal is to get the appropriate proportion of form-substance commensurate with the context.

Incidentally, collectively the 3 relationships, the Neighbour, Jesus’ Model, and Inn Keeper, are described as the Wayside Ministry. It is a wayside because the relationship occurs within the chance meeting or encounters, by a lot of life, in the ordinary course of daily living along the wayside.

The Neighbour
  1. The Neighbour

Luke10:36-37 provides the guideline to be a neighbor. The essential requirements are:

    • The neighbor can find the person in need of help within his life circumstances.
    • The neighbor offers help despite His rejected social status and to love another without expectation of reciprocation. His help offer is sincere (1Pet1:22).
    • The neighbor is in a position (resources) to offer actionable mercy and kindness.
    • The neighbor develops a committed patron-client relationship.
Zacchaeus climbed up into a sycamore tree.
  1. Jesus as the Model

Jesus went about doing what His Father presented to Him (John5:19). Jesus developed the relationships on the go, in His daily dealings. The relationships usually honored the downcast and people rejected by society.

They were brief but meaningful relationships such as the Samaritan woman who had 6 male relationships at the well (John4), Zeccahues the Tax collector (Luke 19), His relationship with Nicodemus the Pharisee (John3), and the woman caught in adultery (John8).

The type of help rendered by Jesus’ model is occasional and circumstantial. There is no long term commitment. The support is sincere, and there is an open and respectful relationship between the patron and the client.

The sign of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn at autumn, Sudbury Massachusetts- Jay Yuan /Shutterstock.com
  1. The Inn Keeper

The Bible is scarce on details about the Inn Keeper. Luke10:25-37 offers the following.

    • The Inn Keeper has presumably located his Inn along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. The Inn is situated deliberately to attract patronage.
    • The Inn Keeper has a formal relationship with the Samaritan and injured Jew. The Samaritan is the patron who pays for the Jew’s stay in the Inn. The Jew has to abide by the terms of stay in the Inn where Inn Keeper cares for him. This formal relationship endures as long as the other two parties stand by their commitment.
    • The Inn Keeper and the Inn have public visibility. A certain level of appearance upkeep is necessary to remain in business.

In practice, the Samaritan, Jesus’ model, and Inn Keeper roles do not exist in their pure forms. Post 10 dealing with the application will explore how these 3 roles are blended.

Table Comparing the Status Quo Against God’s Alternative

Table Comparing the Status Quo Against God’s Alternative

The above provides the comparison between God’s alternative that goes in tandem with Man’s status quo. God’s option restores the human solidarity aspect of Man’s relationship with each other; God is restoring Man’s humanity.

Conclusion

The failing RELATIONSHIPS is at the core of the wealth inequality issue. It may be within reason to claim that this is also at the heart of Man’s general challenges.

Christian faces double jeopardy when dealing with money compared to non-Christians.

Firstly Christians and non-Christians contend with the worry of the future, and the lure of wealth, which arouses Man’s lust and pride.

Christians also have to contend with their sense of entitlement that comes with salvation by grace, apart from works, that encourages them to behave morally worse than non-Christians. See post 3 for the scriptural evidence. A carnal Christian odd as it sounds, is the central struggle of Christianity today.

These challenges are insurmountable in and of themselves, whether for Christians or non-Christians. Christians live a life trusting Jesus’ salvation work to reconcile continually in their backslidings until death. The exact dynamics of this reconciliation process is complicated and exceeds the scope of this post.

In summary, the realizations emerging as the result of these 5 posts cannot abate the forces that sustain and expand this wealth gap. In-fact God has recognized this outcome and presented the bitter solution in Mat24:7 and Luke21:10-11. Jesus said these events need to occur before the appearance of His return to start the 1000 year rule.

Bitter Solution: Mat24:7 and Luke21:10-11

Mat24:7

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences,[fn] and earthquakes in various places.

Luke21:10-11

Then He said to them, the nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.

“And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.

This solution is bitter to Man because it ushers in the age of acute mortality by war, hunger, plagues, and natural disasters. God has recognized that the gentle nudges by the Holy Spirit, since the death of Jesus can only go so far in its efficacy. Tragically only the ominous sentence of imminent death will shock Man out of His collective self-delusion of deification and Masters over their destiny.

Why may one ask the purpose of this Christian and Money Series since the bitter end appears inevitable? The next post will reveal the answer.

References

  1. Steinberg, L. D. (2017). Adolescence (11th). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Christians and Money Series-Serving Two Masters: Part 2

Introduction

 

 

Christianity – What Went Wrong?

 

 

  1. Once Saved Always Saved- This post offers evidence of secure salvation that does not take the conventional route to examine the book of Hebrews. Instead, it will adopt three independent approaches. Check it out!

https://sincerelawrence.com/2020/10/27/once-saved-always-saved-10min-read/

  1. Faith and Work in Harmony –Read this post to support the Once Saved Always Saved post as it is complimentary. Check it out!

https://sincerelawrence.com/2020/10/27/faith-and-work-in-harmony-4min-read/

Before I accepted Jesus as savior, I held prejudices against Christians. Without hard evidence, the sensing informed that Christians were sanctimonious and hypocrites. My father-in-law and mother-in-law are atheists. The Christian English speaking peers discriminated against them in the work environment for their speaking mandarin background and inferior command of the English language. The government policy perpetuated this discriminatory work environment in the 1970s and 1980s that promoted English and suppressed mandarin use.

Till today, these experiences stumble them from seeing the love offered by Jesus. Unsurprisingly they share the same prejudice once held. I still have this prejudice. The reasons for them will naturally reveal themselves in this series of posts.

When it occurred to me that I am as guilty of this same indictment, this is one reason that motivated me to start blogging and adopt changes to reflect the truths that God has revealed that illuminate my soul.

I was heavily exposed to the “hyper-grace and prosperity gospel” of Joseph Prince Ministries from 1996 to 2012. Therefore I am no stranger to the influences of wealth and material blessings legitimized through such preaching. I am opposed to such teachings as they test God’s will with a carnal mind. Please refer t the link below, which is a related post about testing God.

https://sincerelawrence.com/2020/11/07/test-mock-god/

The above raises the query, Is there truth to the indictment of sanctimoniousness and hypocrisy by non-believers concerning Christians? This reflection aims to examine Christians and money as the context to support to answer this query.

In total, 12 parables (see Appendix A) regarded money with key roles illustrating money as a source of value and motivation. The value of money becomes glaring when it is insufficient to meet the basic needs and endangers life.

Money is a proxy of power and influence. It is of such paramount importance that Jesus recognized that man struggles to denounce their worship of money, which is necessary before one can genuinely serve God (Mat6:24).

The Hedonic Treadmill

Money fuels hedonic adaptation. This adaptation compels man to pursue after things or relationships to bring about happiness. Tragically this state of happiness is fleeting, not sustainable, and requires more significant pursuits to create the same pleasure.

One main engine of this hedonic adaptation is social comparison. Social comparison breeds envy and covetousness. These toxic emotions drive the pursuit of money that one imagines can give them what others have, bringing happiness. Hedonic adaptation and social comparison are both parts of the human condition of the flesh.

For more about the hedonic adaptation, watch the following video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXCol9vaPkY

 

Christians and Money

The link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth_and_religion and https://www.cnbc.com/2015/01/14/the-religion-of-millionaires-.html show that based on the report by New World revealed the wealth distribution among different religious groups. Based on the data from this link, the ranking of the winners emerge as follow. Christianity is clearly in the lead in both categories, highest in global wealth as a percentage and the highest number of millionaires.

Winners of the Hedonic Race
Table: Global Wealth Ranking of Various Religious Groups

Table: Global Wealth Ranking of Various Religious Groups

 

Money and the World

The Wealth Pyramid Extracted from “Global Wealth Report 2013” by Credit-Suisse.com

The above diagram from the link https://web.archive.org/web/20150214155424/https://publications.credit-suisse.com/tasks/render/file/?fileID=BCDB1364-A105-0560-1332EC9100FF5C83 illustrates the severity of the rich-poor chasm.

The wealth pyramid shows that 8.4% of the world’s wealthiest segment of the population possesses 83.3% of the world’s wealth.

In contrast, 68.7% of the world’s poorest segment of the population possesses 3% of the world’s wealth.

The “middle class” that makes up 22.9% of the world’s population possesses 13.7% of its wealth.

Visual Disparity of Wealth Relative Ranking (To Scale)

For comparison, it is useful to adopt the relative ranking approach with the world’s poorest population as the smallest denominator. The denominator is defined as “% wealth/%population,” which gives the unit of wealth across the population’s particular segment. The following emerges.

No World’s Population

Categorized by Wealth

% wealth/%population.” Relative Ranking
1 Poorest (68.7%) 0.0437 1
2 Middle (22.9%) 0.598 13.7
3 Richest (8.4%) 9.917 226.9

The above shows that the world’s most prosperous group is 226.9 times wealthier than the world’s poorest as a group.

The total wealth reported by Credit-Suisse is 240.8trillion exceeds the New World Report amount of 195trillion. This reporting difference is attributable to the ways wealth data were categorized, gathered, and accounted for.

The reasons for this reality are complex, and the webs of factors are involved. While no one individual, even the richest, can unravel this Gordian knot, the evidence shows that Christians as a whole have the largest stake that sustains the status quo of glaring wealth disparity.

The graph below shows about 20% of the world’s population lives in abject poverty; less than USD 1.90 a day. These are more than just figures. People’s lives revolve around these realities.

(By Max Roser – https://ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83581991)

 

Who is the Master?

The data does not reveal how much wealth in the top 8.4% belongs to Christians.

If one adopts the same proportion (55%) given by New World and applies this to the top 8.4% wealth in Credit-Suisse’s report, the millionaire Christians hold about 110 trillion. Using the 2013 global population of 7.162 billion (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/world-population-countries.php), the average net worth for each Christian in that 8.4% segment is approximately $330,000.00.

Christian Wealth among the Top 8.4% of the World’s Wealthiest

Conclusion

This evidence embellishes the indictment that Christians appear to be serving two masters. In Ezekiel’s language, the prophet, this is akin to playing the harlot with the world’s economic system. Jesus says that this man will end up with a love-hate relationship with the two masters (Mat6:24).

The Human Condition Torn Between Two Masters

In reality, the love-hate relationship is not loyal to either Master. The soul swings like a pendulum. The soul is in this constant tension and conflict-torn between two spiritual Masters and conflicting inner desires.

This reflection ends on this sobering note. The following post will explore what the bible reveals about the harlotry of such nature.